• Welcome to Operation Photo Rescue's Online Community.

Any tips on a standard process?

Started by Mike Morrell, September 05, 2017, 07:39:54 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Mike Morrell

Hi all, I'm a newbie (5 months) both to photo damage repair and to Photoshop. I know there's no standard process in repairing/restoring photos but I wonder how you all go about assessing the damage and preparing to do a restore in Photoshop. So far, I've learned that color/levels correction is the first step. Then checking the RGB channels to look for details that are perhaps less damaged in one of the channels. I've searched the forum on 'workflow', 'process' and 'steps' and I've not found much so far.

Do you follow a standard 'assessment process' (other than color correction) that works for you? If so, care to share? My apologies if this question has been asked and answered many times before! A link to a previous thread would be great!'


Musician, Photographer and Volunteer

Tess (Tassie D)

I think everyone has a different preference once you've done color/levels correction. I might decide to tackle background first or sometimes I can't resist a face first approach. :)
Two things I always do is zoom in to 200% to really look for pixel damage and zoom out and stand back from the image to see if anything catches my eye.
Tess Cameron
Distribution Coordinator
[email protected]


After the color correction, I'm like Tess. Sometime I tackle the bkgd and other times the people. I do make a point of putting everything on it's own layer and naming it to make it easier if/when  :cool:  I have to go back and tweak something based on feedback from the forum or the distributor.
By the way, don't hesitate to ask a question. Even if it has been asked before, you never know what pearl of wisdom someone has come across since that last time.


Mike, don't apologize as that what makes the Forum fun to read. My first thing to do is always color correction. If there are pieces missing in a photo; I start seeing if I can borrow by use of the lasso and putting on its own layer. I will rotate, transform, etc. I also us a 2 pix feather so that there will be no hard lines. When I get that layer where I want it I will use layer masks to blend in and then merge visible. From there it is what I want to work on next. I so save and then do a save as so that in case I want to go back to an earlier version. I clean the photo up and the background is usually what I save to the last. Everyone has what works for them.

"carpe diem"

Margie Hayes
OPR President
[email protected]


Mike, like Margie said there is no need to apologize, it doesn't matter if the question was asked before.  The forum has a treasure of information on how to tackle different problems in restoring.  Thanks to Photobucket we now have to rebuild our knowledge base again so any questions are very welcome!

For me workflow depends very much the extend of damage.
You will find photos here with damage so bad that there is no handbook on earth that will tell you what workflow to use let alone how to repair damage.  That is where the forum is of great help, even if just for another pair of eyes.
Also on any photos with yellow/red damage the Blue Channel will be a great help for damage control.

For the easier restores, my workflow is very much like what is described here by others.  After Levels and Curves I usually clean up the subject first and back ground later.  I always leave the original background in and painstakingly clean/repair it around the outline of the subject.  The rest of the back ground can be dealt with more rigorously.  (completely replaced background usually makes the subject look like a cut out doll)
I end up with a 10-20 layer file and try to work non destructive as much as possible.

One thing I like to do at the end of my restore is to zoom in real close for a once all over.  (Tess mentioned it too)

Hannie Scheltema
Distribution Coordinator
[email protected]


I've found the best thing, like Hannie said, is to work non-destructively. So that means getting very comfortable with layers and masks. Remember too that there's a mask with each adjustment layer, so you can apply different adjustments to different sections of a photo. It gets tricky though, which is why you make many layers as you go along. That way you can back up to a good point. There's lots of backing up  >:D
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence." -Calvin Coolidge

Mike Morrell

Thanks for the feedback and tips!
I'm generally OK with 'editing' (non-destructive, layers, masks, backups etc.). Color/levels correction (as a first step) too. Bambi's tutorial on using the blue channel as a masked luminosity layer was very useful. I checked the channels in the other 'image modes' too. So it's good to know I haven't missed anything before starting editing.
Musician, Photographer and Volunteer


I usually work from the background forward.
Photoshop 2021, MacPro


I follow the same non-destructive process as everyone else who commented. I almost always work the Background first because I find it oppressive to look at. I always repair, never replace the background. If I have to silhouette the subject to separate it from the background, I expand the selection at least 33 pixels so I don't lose the delicate transition area between the subject and background, making sure to include all areas with wispy hairs and subtle shadows so it doesn't look cut out. Always check the channels for missing detail.

I also use a color layer and paint over the damage. If a dress is red, with yellow and blue damage, I select the red from an undamaged area and paint the dress on a separate color layer. Then Shift/Opt/Cmd E (on Mac) to make a merged copy of the layers, but keep the original layers. I find that the Spot Healing and Patch tools work more accurately if the damage is the same color as the undamaged area.

Bambi, Photoshop CC 2017, MacPro

Mike Morrell

Hi Bambi, thanks for the 'color painting'' tip! It's very helpful. I've done something similar to quickly paint over spots, stains, faded areas, etc. but I hadn't thought of using it for water damage until now. I'm sure I can use the technique on the first photo I'm working on.

I have all of 4 months  ^-^ experience at 'restoration'. Mostly on cracks, creases, rips, tears, faded B&W/Sepia photos, discolored photos, missing parts, etc. Water damage is new for me. The basic box of restoration/repair tools and techniques is pretty much the same whatever the damage. But where, when and how you apply them depends on the type of damage and on individual photos. I'm enjoying the challenge of restoring photos with water damage and I'm sure I'll learn a whole lot at OPR. I'm really impressed by the quality of the restorations I've seen so far on the forum and by the attention to fine details. Some kind of 'Peer review' and Quality Control/Feedback is something I've missed until now and I value this highly.

I usually start off with the background too - at least the major damage. It's often the least challenging to work on and for me it quickly gives me a sense of 'making progress'. I find it's also a good way of 'absorbing' the photo as a whole. If there's major damage (large cracks, etc.) to people/bodies, I often tend to do 'broad brush' repairs to those too. Then you get a better sense of how the whole photo should look without the distractions (the blobs of lurid color, missing parts, large cracks, etc.). More work on the finer details - background + subjects - comes last (and usually takes the most time  ;) )

Musician, Photographer and Volunteer